Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters, my name is Andrew Warner and I am the pushy, bully interviewer here at Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. I’ll explain that in a moment, but first I’ve got to tell you what I have packed for you here today. I’ve got for you the story of a guy who was bored at work and decided that he was going to build a profitable marketing company, and he did it. I invited him here to talk about how he did it, and my goal for this interview is to have you learn how profitable marketing companies are built, and frankly, any kind of consulting company. I think if you’re looking to do that, you’re going to get a lot out of this interview.
Aaron Agius is the founder of LouderOnline, it’s a digital marketing consulting company that provides an ROI for marketing goals of medium to enterprise businesses. This interview is sponsored by, let me say it very clearly, I know I speak fast, I have to slow down for my sponsor, Leadpages.net. Leadpages is a company that creates these beautiful landing pages that help increase conversions. The thing is, they don’t want to create all the beautiful landing pages because they know that they’re not the only people who can do it.
So if you, the person who’s listening to my voice or reading my transcript right now know how to create great landing pages that will allow people to get more email addresses on their websites or sell more on their websites, I want you to create a landing page on Leadpages site and they will sell it for you and ship 100% of the revenue to you, they’ll do the work. All you have to do is go to, write this down, mixergy.com/leadpages. In fact, forget the pencil, you’ll remember it. Mixergy.com/leadpages. Aaron, welcome.
Aaron: Thank you, thank you for having me. I just wanted to jump in and say leadpages are fantastic. We’ve done a lot of work with them in the past, great sponsor.
Andrew: They really are, they’re fantastic and they’re doing better and better. You are also pretty surprisingly impressive, as I was pushing you. We were talking for what, 28 minutes before we started, and what did you think of the conversation before I start describing what happened?
Aaron: It was good to be probed. [laughs] It shows you know how to do a good interview so I appreciate where we got to, and I’m happy to share that content.
Andrew: I pushed you on everything: Is your revenue for real, did you really do black hat or white hat, is Neil Patel who introduced us just trying to do a favor for a friend and there’s nothing going on in your business and I’m about to bore my audience with nothing? I pushed you on every single thing, and I was looking at you as I did it, and you were OK with it.
Aaron: Yeah, I appreciate it, make sure that I say everything that needs to be said. So please, go for it again.
Andrew: All right, because you know it is one of the problems of doing this, that I get to know a lot of great guests through my interviews, people like Neil Patel and many others, who then introduce me to their friends. Some of their friends just aren’t ready yet, and I don’t want to say no to a guy who I interviewed about his friend, but I have to. I have to keep protecting the integrity of this interview program. The world depends on it. The future of the world and all future entrepreneurs are counting on me and you right now. I do act like it, and you know what, frankly, I’ll accept it. I do act like this is way, way significant and think that’s the only way to do a good job in anything.
Aaron: It is, and you have a positive impact on a lot of people. The website’s fantastic, so keep up the good work.
Andrew: I appreciate it. Alright, let’s get us down to where you were before. One of the things I was probing you on was what it was about your job, because it seems like you were getting paid good money. What was it about it that you didn’t like, and then you told me about a time that you had to do some work around the Byron Bay area?
Aaron: Yeah, so I was working in IT doing infrastructure project management. To start with, I was never a fan of IT, I was just good at it, and in this role one of the things that happened that really annoyed me towards the end was that I was building big networks and I had a whole team that had been making it. We had to deliver this network, and have it live on this certain day. We had 450 people arriving on site to start work as of this set day. We had all the computers and equipment that were meant to be there a few days beforehand, and had time to be set up and team members let me down, computers didn’t arrive. Me being the boss at the time, that’s on me, and I understand, but things like that just…
Andrew: What do you mean everything was on you? Did people yell at you?
Aaron: Oh, yeah. There was…
Andrew: How did they yell at you?
Andrew: How did they yell? What did they say?
Aaron: You know, you’re the boss, the ultimate responsibility lies with you and so I had all of the stakeholders, including the clients, including my bosses, everyone involved having a yell for different reasons. A lot of it was fine, in the end it’s not like you can turn around and say “It was his fault.” You’re the boss, you have to take it on the chin, and that hurts, and I was over that.
Andrew: So then you told me, actually you told our pre-interviewer, April Dykeman, that you and your fiancee “packed it in.” What does it mean to “pack it in”?
Aaron: So, yeah, for numerous, different reasons including unhappiness at work. We sold houses, sold assets and, and we decided to head off to Thailand. And we wanted to see what it was like living on a resort island. And so we, we got ourselves a villa. We lived on the edge of a remote island for a few months and it was, it was pretty life changing because, at that point, we’re sitting there thinking well there needs to be a way that we can do this sort of thing and be able to live wherever we want and earn a strong currency and still be able to spend almost no money living like kings. You know, that’s what you can do in parts of Thailand.
Andrew: Give me a description of what when you say “living like kings.” What’s an example of, of something that made your life feel really regal.
Aaron: Ah, it was…Thailand’s beautiful in the first place. We lived in a beautiful Villa at very little money. It was a big six bedroom villa. We had permanent, full-time staff that were there to do anything and everything for us at any time. Food, cleaning…
Andrew: Wow. How much money did it cost to live like that?
Aaron: It was probably only $1500 a month…
Andrew: Whoa, okay.
Aaron: And that’s, that’s pretty amazing and then you’re looking at…you know, you buy a meal for a dollar that you’d be spending $20 plus dollars for back in Australia where I live currently. It’s-
Andrew: How’s the Internet there? In the Villa?
Aaron: The Internet through Asia is, is pretty good in a lot of places. So while it was a little patchy. Yeah, there were things we could put in place that really allowed us to be able to get around the, the breaks in Internet. So there was a part of us developing proper systems and processes that really built…we built our businesses on.
Andrew: Part of the process is what you do if the Internet goes down in this beautiful villa. That’s what you mean.
Aaron: Yeah, [laughs], um, in the beautiful villa yeah, or anywhere that we wanted to be because we wanted to travel the world and, and be able to work anywhere and-
Andrew: Were you earning a living while you were there in the first few months?
Aaron: Not initially, no.
Andrew: Was it life?
Aaron: No, we, we were just living off savings at that point and it was, it was just a matter of trying to identify what we wanted to do and how we could live in our, our…in the way that we desired.
Andrew: So what’s the thing that showed you the way that what you wanted to do?
Aaron: Yeah, so that was a combination of things. It was trying to leverage what skills we both had so my wife or fiancee at the time she was head of marketing for IBM throughout Southeast Asia, and Australia and New Zealand and I had the IT skill, so we wanted to combine what we had and on top of that on that same trip I came across Tim Ferris’s book “The Four Hour Work Week” and it was like everything was just falling into place. The combination of all of these things really put a structure in place for us to identify how to achieve the things we wanted to achieve.
Andrew: You told me before we started there was a period there where your wife was supporting you.
Andrew: What did she do?
Aaron: This…What did she do?
Andrew: Yes, what did she do while she was supporting you?
Aaron: She, then, went into IT and did similar work to what I was doing. Hated it. And that’s fair enough. But I spent the time working every single day trying to understand internet marketing and how people make money online because all these wild claims everywhere, you know there had to be that it actually there was some truth behind it and so that was my job and I threw everything into it. And you know, the good part of that was it was after about four months of doing this full time that we made our first money online and that was..
Andrew: Four months. What’s one thing that you tried that now in retrospect looks just ridiculous and then we’ll get into what worked?
Aaron: Yeah, sure. I tried everything so I, I sat there, we didn’t have much money at the time and I thought well people are making money through paper quick and I’m going to burn through all of my money . The other thing was people were making money through SEO so I thought I’m going to learn SEO because it’s relatively free and then the niches that I researched and tried to get into were just never going to make money and..
Andrew: What’s one of them?
Aaron: One of them was, something about Bible passages that I remember were about people trying to surface something about Bible passages. There’s just no money in it
Andrew: I see, you said I’m going to SEO Bible Passages and you couldn’t figure out where you were going. Did you start doing it?
Aaron: Yeah, I bought a domain. I tried to set up a website. You know, this is, this is one of the learning curves. I went through maybe ten different things where I almost completed what I was trying to do never got around to it because I learned halfway through that that’s not going to work and it was all of those failures that eventually led to being able to understand what would work.
Andrew: What’s the first thing that worked?
Aaron: We got into affiliate marketing and we made money driving traffic to hotel accommodation websites.
Andrew: Okay. What’s one of the websites that you drove traffic to?
Aaron: One of the affiliate programs?
Aaron: We drove traffic to lots of Hotels Combined. The other one was Travelocity, at the time.
Andrew: What did you do to drive traffic when you didn’t have money?
Aaron: We came back to where I learned most of which is SEO. And that was a three way where you put in a lot of effort, but you didn’t have to spend a lot of money. That was how we made our first dollar, our first cent.
Andrew: First cent. You literally remember the first few pennies that came in?
Aaron: We made, the first day we made any money, it was 40 cents online and I was running around high fiving people. I was absolutely over the moon. And the whole reason behind that is because what I had learned in that period of time was that things online were almost infinitely scalable and can be highly automated and we took that 40 cents that day, and made 400 dollars the next day.
Andrew: What did you do to get the first 40 cents?
Aaron: It was about optimizing the website that we had created to ensure that we were coming up within the local results for Google. So, people were searching for a cheap hotel in New York and through the work that we did we made our website come up top there and we drove some traffic and a couple of clicks through to the affiliate site.
Andrew: Was it literally New York? Or was it a different city?
Aaron: We were across cities around the world, I don’t remember exactly which city…
Andrew: One site, multiple pages and you were trying to optimize each one of those pages for the local cities that they were referred to and when people came in through Google to one of those pages, you automatically referred them to Hotels Combined, or maybe Travelocity, etc. And you got paid 40 cents per click for sending traffic to them.
Aaron: Yeah, we weren’t doing commission based, we were just doing per click. And that’s why we had a hotel search engine embedded on the website on each page and that brought our relevant results for them. So we were providing value and that’s the ultimate goal…
Andrew: What was on the page that provided value?
Aaron: The fact that the search results were tailored to their specific geotargeted area. So if you tell them New York, they weren’t going to get at least the global hotels.
Andrew: And each one of those hotels was a link to a travel website’s booking service.
Aaron: Got it. By the way, Anne Marie, how was it to listen to me do the interview? Anne Marie does not like wearing headphones and she happens to be in the office today as we’re recording. [??] Is it? [??] It’s not distracting? It’s a little distracting? [laughs] She says it’s awesome. Good. How do you go from 40 cents to 400 bucks? What happens that, overnight, the numbers jump up that dramatically?
Andrew: What happened is that I knew it was one action that got the result that I needed, so we were ultimately trying to just rank our websites within the standard organic results. I then added the website to Google local places, or Google places, basically just those top few results where they give you a phone number and address and those sorts of things. So, it was the immediate switch of going into that area and filling out the details and…
Aaron: So you went into Google’s listings where they allow content, not content owners, but basically hotels to edit their own profiles, but linked back to your site and said this works.
Andrew: No, no, no. We added a listing for our own website. We didn’t hack anyone else…
Aaron: I see, you didn’t remove it. You added it. So basically, anyone who went looking for a hotel, let’s say, a hotel in New York, would get to see your option in addition to the others that were there.
Aaron: Can I still see that today on their site? Even if it’s not with your link?
Andrew: Yeah, if you look for a hotel in New York, I bet the results that would come up with phone numbers, addresses, reviews…
Aaron: I see. I’m doing a search right now, hotel New York. At the top I see basically, more hotels, that’s not what you mean right? I see a link that goes to the Plaza hotel, oh, I see. I click on the Plaza hotel and it brings up a listing for the Plaza hotel that includes: Plaza hotel in New York, a way to book it through Booking.com, Orbitz, etc, that’s not where you added yourself.
Andrew: So, if I’ve done the search for a hotel in New York. I know I’m in a different location, so there will be personalization issues. One of my first ones on this says “Broadway at Times Square hotel”..
Aaron: Okay, I see. Alright and then what happens?
Andrew: And that’s a link straight to the actual hotel. There is an address and a phone number on the right hand side. There is the dollar value, one of the Rich snippets, showing the average hotel room cost. I was able to get our website within those listings.
Andrew: Okay. Can you still do it today? I don’t see it in there.
Aaron: No? You might not be able to see my specific one in there because we’ve moved on into other niches.
Andrew: But can I see a place to add something else in there? So if someone is listening to us can they add their listing to it today and make their first 40 cents?
Aaron: If you do a search for Google Places you’ll be able to click on a link. I think it’s called Google Business now.
Andrew: Ah, Google.com/Business and then it says get on Google and we just followed that and that’s what you did?
Aaron: It’s a fantastic way for businesses focusing on local areas to try and get [inaudible 00:00:53] results.
Andrew: So why don’t you continue to do it today?
Aaron: I was playing around in things that don’t necessarily work anymore. The algorithms change constantly. Google changes its rules, Google creates penalties, Google does whatever is going to best to provide the most relevant search results to the searches. So things that I was doing back then no longer work and then constantly have to evolve and move onto new things and new tactics.
Andrew: All right, but is the bigger picture here to say, who has traffic that I can stick my link on, make it useful enough that I don’t get tossed off or laughed out, frankly who cares about being laughed at, and then redirect it to an affiliate?
Aaron: Yeah, if I’m making recommendations to someone wanting to get into affiliate marketing I would be giving the same recommendations and the same steps that I give to our clients that we look after for SEO and content marketing. And that is to create value for the visitor, create great content, create a website, answer people’s questions, solve problems and also do a whole lot of guest blogging on quality websites. That guest blogging can drive referral traffic back to click on your links
Andrew: Did you do any guest blogging to the affiliate stuff that you did?
Aaron: Not initially and that’s because there wasn’t a need at the time. I was initially about finding loopholes and trying to find quicker ways of getting results. And that did work but the issue there is the affiliate income becomes rather unstable and unreliable.
Andrew: But Aaron, can we then leave somebody who is listening to this with that lesson, that we are not supposed to tell them, but frankly it seems to work, at first when you’re hustling just look for those loopholes, the places where you can stick your link that works or frankly the loopholes in the system that you can use. Understand that it’s not going to last forever and, frankly what you did was, then built a consulting company that is much more stable and has grown even between the time of our pre-interview and now.
Aaron: Yeah, that’s it. You need to find a way to make money doing things like this. Finding loopholes will help you understand how things fit together. There are ethical questions around it, don’t hurt anyone, don’t do evil.
Andrew: When you say ethical questions, what’s an ethical boundary that you feel you might have crossed?
Aaron: I prefer not to answer that in too much detail. But I avoided doing anything that made me feel bad. No mass spamming, no comment spam links and those sorts of things. I’ve bought links, I did whatever I could without knowing that it would immediately hurt anyone.
Andrew: I know that from time to time there are different places where people can go online and find the shadier conversations about online marketing. Where is a good place to watch and read the shadier conversations?
Aaron: At the top of that list is probably BlackHatWorld.com. It’s the most famous one and I think it’s been around the longest. It’s a worthwhile place to go. I don’t promote black hat, I don’t tell people this is what you should be doing. I promote people understanding it and learning it because a lot of where we’re at today is because I understood what boundaries you could cross and what impact doing these black hat things would have on our website. It really fills the gaps between all of the white hat stuff people are promoting and what actually works on a technical side. And it’s the combination that really gives a man an advantage over a lot of people over the industry.
Andrew: Okay, so even if you’re not going to do it, it pays to at least click around in sites like BlackHatWorld.com and see what people are talking about. I’m looking at it right now just to get a sense of it. All right, so that’s where you got started and what you were finding was it just wasn’t steady enough and so you started to transition into doing marketing for other companies. I asked you before we started about the first customer you had for your services. You remembered. Who was the first customer?
Aaron: The first customer was actually a friend, it was a local plumber in Sydney, and we did work, I mean, we’re talking a good eight years or so ago now. We did work to make sure he was coming up at the top of Google first.
Andrew: How did you have a friend who is a plumber?
Aaron: How did I have a friend who is a plumber?
Andrew: I mean, basically, you are traveling in the IT world, I don’t have friends, unfortunately, who are outside the tech world sometimes. How did you have a friend that was that far outside?
Aaron: We’d been friends for years.
Andrew: I see.
Aaron: We worked together when we were 15, 16, something like that.
Andrew: Okay, and you guys stayed in touch? I’ve lost touch with too many of my friends. And you said, all right, I can help you with your plumbing website?
Aaron: Yeah, initially the transition that we made, people were seeing that we were making money online and not going to the typical 9 to 5 and not having the same complaints.
Andrew: How did they know you were making money online?
Aaron: I was happy to tell them.
Andrew: I see… So you just, at dinner, you’d say, we just made another 400 bucks by doing this one thing on Google.
Aaron: Yeah, that’s probably not as direct as it would be, but people would ask me what I’d be doing for work. I wasn’t giving away all the details, but people knew that we were making money online and that we could do that to their websites. And so we ended up transitioning across to that to provide some stability to the affiliate efforts as well.
Andrew: So you helped your friend with his website. What is the first big client outside your friends group that you got?
Aaron: So, that was for a big educational business based out of Australia, that had offices and educational facilities all throughout the country. So that was a good body of work. We had those guys for about 3 or 4 years.
Andrew: How did you get them?
Aaron: It was more word of mouth, and that’s how a lot of this business works. I’m really active on LinkedIn and have been for a number of years, and I have plenty of connections, and connections who are friends of friends, and people that I’ve met in different ways, and people just get in contact and I have had people get in contact and ask how we can help them out.
Andrew: All right, I actually like your LinkedIn strategy a lot. I think it’s worth talking about here. One of the things you do on LinkedIn is you create groups, what is the group you were telling me about before we started?
Aaron: So we’ve got a group called the Marketing Leaders of Australia Group. The whole point of it was that, I wanted to have access to our target clients. I wanted to provide value to our target clients. So those target clients are marketing professionals, not just in Australia anymore, we are global now, but initially it was in Australia. So we invited those people to be a member of the Marketing Leaders group, so they feel good about being called a Marketing Leader. And then I provide valuable content on a regular basis within the group. I engage in conversations, and comment, and “like,” and get involved in that way.
The good part about it is that it puts me in a position of authority, and I really get to demonstrate my expertise within the industry. They’ll talk about it. It gives me direct access to our target clients by being able to run direct message campaigns through LinkedIn and basically be in front of people’s faces and get enough touch points with them so we are in the front of their mind whenever they have a need for our services.
Andrew: So it looks like the group has roughly 6,000 members, it started in 2012, and because you are the guy who is the owner of it, you can e-mail all of them?
Aaron: Yes, I can do direct messages through LinkedIn. And one of the other benefits is that LinkedIn has an e-mail update that goes once a week, so you are in their inbox, so it’s pretty much like having a [??] list of my target clients should I ever need to send them contact.
Andrew: It looks like a lot of these people are … I see one person is a Journalist, one people does business intelligence at Scope Systems, so how many customers have you gotten from this list?
Aaron: Our whole business process is around having a smaller number of higher valued customers. I never wanted to have hundreds of customers. So we’ve probably picked up a good 5 to 10 customers at around 5,000 dollars a month plus in invoicing.
Andrew: So that’s one thing that worked for you, another thing that you needed to do to reach outside your friends’ circle is to start writing. Do you remember the first big post that you got out into the world?
Aaron: I remember the first two. So, yeah, everyone talks, myself included, talks about doing guest blogging on relevant websites and driving thorough traffic and providing value that way. I reached out to Neil Patel who runs Quick Sprout and KISSmetrics and a bunch of other places and offered my support in helping him with his forums and running moderation for his forums. I noticed he was doing his advanced guide series where he was doing a good sort of 30-40,000 words on the advanced guide to SEO, on link building, on content marketing on a range of topics.
And I thought, I’m going to see if I can help you out with a joint venture on some content there, and that’s what I did. And I created the complete guide to building a blog audience and then the complete guide to building your own line, personal brand, I think, was the second one.
Andrew: So did he take down his blog? I thought it was on QuickSprout.com. Excuse me, his forum on QuickSprout.com.
Aaron: That’s right.
Andrew: He took it down?
Aaron: Yeah, I think it went down last week.
Aaron: It was an experiment in user generated content, and the benefits of that were half of the website overall. He wrote a big blog post on it just last week when he closed it, and, you know, Neil tests a lot of different ways of achieving a good ROI and it just wasn’t working out. And compared to a lot of other different things he’s trying, so he shut it down.
Andrew: I see. And you got together with him because you emailed him and said, “Can I help by moderating this forum for you?” You started participating with your eye towards what at first?
Aaron: Really just networking. I didn’t have a goal other than I wanted to provide value in it, and that’s sort of comes back to. A lot of what we do we have clients and a lot of what I recommend to our clients is just get out there and create value and help people solve problems and network. And that was the only goal that I had at the time.
Andrew: Aaron, we’re all busy. You’re trying to scrape by and figure out how to start and grow your business. You have all kinds of other obligations coming up, and you just want to help other people without any sense towards a clear return on investment, even if that investment is your time.
Aaron: What I worked out is that the return on investment does come when you help people. People start coming through to you for more and wanting to pay you to help them out. And in the end you read what everyone says about personal branding, about guest blogging, about getting your name out there. And Neil himself is a fantastic example. He provides so much free content and so much value, and it builds his brand. It gives him opportunities.
And so, you know, eventually you’ve got to eat your own dog food. And so I started with guest blogging. I started with creating content with Neil. I started doing a lot of content marketing and the results are there.
Andrew: I see. All right. So then you started to… Did you get any traffic, any new customers when you were just moderating his forum?
Aaron: I know the first lead and sale came through straight after I did the first guide of building your blog audience. So I think that was good. So it’s $7,000 a month in revenue.
Andrew: Oh wow. So the guide actually… It’s almost overly simplifying to call it a guide. I’m just listening right now to Nathan Berry’s book on authority. He’s a past interviewee who wrote a book on how he writes books. He says you should aim for about 25-30,000 words to get a book that you can sell online. And you’re creating essentially that for free in what you call the ultimate guide, but it seems like it’s more than that, right? And you’re doing all that without any money from Neil.
Aaron: Yeah, most definitely I don’t get paid. I just like what Neil does. There’s not many people that don’t like what he does in his space at the moment. And so, you know, to get involved in something like that was taking a shot in the dark. And then once it went live looking at the referral traffic, the brand awareness, the interview requests, the client leads and the subsequent sale. It just shows I wasn’t expecting it, but it shows that it works. Yeah, it was a lot of effort, but I’d do it again for sure. I intend on doing probably a book at some time in the future.
Andrew: What was your process for writing a book? Actually wait, was it mostly you or mostly Neil writing the book?
Aaron: Mostly myself.
Andrew: Basically, you’re a ghost writer for Neil, right?
Aaron: Well, both our names are on it. [laughs]
Andrew: So it does make you a ghost writer. You’re his writer though, but he guides you.
Aaron: Yeah look, we both work on the outline and what inclusions needed to be there. Once we were both happy with what was going to be included, did the writing, there were removals of different chapters, that sort of thing. So it was a collaborative effort.
Andrew: Okay. One of the coolest things about Neil was when he first came to a Mixergy event and spoke and said “You know I don’t do a lot of the stuff that you guys think I do. Here’s how I hire people who do the things that you think I’m doing.” I like that openness because frankly there’s no way the guy could do everything that we see. And we don’t necessarily need him to write every word in this, but we do want him to bless every word and say this is true and this works.
Andrew: So you were the guy that was doing the work for him and you were doing it just expecting that it would lead to something good without any clear understanding what that is.
Aaron: Yep, it was a shot in the dark knowing that this is what I tell clients, this is what I do for clients. So not exactly a shot in the dark. This is what I do for clients. I can see that they get results over time. What I wasn’t expecting was the more immediate results I got from the work.
Andrew: I see, meaning immediately, almost, you got a new customer who was paying you about 7 thousand a month. Okay. What was your writing process to put that together?
Aaron: It was really leveraging our own business processes and systems. So we have this stuff. I do this stuff on a daily basis and it was trying to collapse that down into core chapters. I could have kept writing on it forever and talking about it. So it was collapsing it down into key chapters and making sure they were actionable steps that people could do something with rather than just say that’s interesting but there’s no action taken.
Andrew: Do you guys start with a goal for what you wanted your user to be able to do and then write the chapters and then fill ’em in? That was it?
Aaron: Yes, it was coming up with the idea. I pitched the idea to Neil. Once we agreed on that it was outlining the different chapters and the inclusions. Just doing bullet points and brightening it all out and from there, once that was agreed upon it was the writing, filling in the gaps.
Andrew: Okay. All right and frankly that’s how Neil Patel got his start, too. I remember him coming here and saying I did free work for all these websites. You know them today but you may not have known tachyons when I did free work for them and that’s how he built up his reputation. All right, what I’m seeing so far is you did something for yourself on a small scale, you grew it up a little bit more then you did it as a consultant for other people, first with smaller people who didn’t know nearly as much as you and then as you kept getting more and more knowledge you were doing it for bigger clients.
Then you needed to build you reputation so you were volunteering to be a moderator, you were volunteering to write a book with Neil. You were volunteering also to do some guest post. Where else did you do guest posts?
Aaron: Entrepreneur.com, search engine journal, hot spot, that’s off the top of my head. There are others, there’s a whole range of them that you can be doing. I like to focus on a few key ones with decent traffic and decent audience behind as to read the content that I’m sharing.
Andrew: There is a Mixergy fan named John Cochen who is so into writing guest posts because he knows the direct result for his bottom line. I see his numbers and his process. He will write a post on a site that gets a lot of traffic, make sure the link from that post also the link goes to a landing page that directly speaks to the person who read that article and then he collects the email address and then and then and then. Clear funnel. So he knows whether the post is worth the investment of time. You’re saying, essentially, it doesn’t work that way because someone will not click over from a post to sign up from your mailing list and then buy within a month. What is the process and how can you be sure that when you’re writing you’re getting the results you want?
Aaron: I’m not necessarily saying it doesn’t work that way. It’s going to work differently for everyone. I actually preach a lot of what you just said happens as well. For me, my experiences being that it’s hard for me to track a lead often because it’s either people have seen your guest posting somewhere, then they’ve come and seen one of my social protocols and then come through linked in to see if I’ve been active there and then make an inquiry from there. So that to me speaks to the result of branding, your personal branding and being active and doing [??] and guest posting and being out there.
Andrew: I look at Entrepreneur Magazine, the post you wrote over there is called content marketing lessons from 4 successful kick starter campaigns. I don’t think you got that much traffic from there. But what you did get is the ability to say here a couple of times, both before and on camera, and I wrote for Entrepreneur Magazine. Is that part of the strategy?
Aaron: It absolutely is. It fits into the whole branding aspect and it reminds me of a thing called trading up the chain from, the name of the book is escaping me right now, but it’s about identifying relevant industry publications and getting in there writing a post and leveraging to that to get to the next point and the next point and so on and so forth. Then you can go ahead and use those logos on your website. You can then go say that, ‘I’m a respected author over here.’ It’s just that overall growth and credibility of who you are and what you do.
Andrew: I see. That’s where that fits in. That’s not necessarily a way of getting traffic, but it is a way of raising your profile. How did you get into Entrepreneur Magazine?
Aaron: Industry connections and networking. That’s the same way with rubbing into any others that I continue to leverage where I’ve written previously.
That’s what we say to, now we do a lot of guess blogging for our clients and it’s about getting them published somewhere, leveraging that to get to the next one and continuing to build from that.
Andrew: How do you know what to write about?
Aaron: What we do is make sure that we use botsumo.com. Great tool that you can put any website into and it shows you the most shared content from that website across the different social channels. It’s a clear indicator of topic content that really resonates with the audience of that website. Then we go ahead and create something at least as good, if not better, than that
Andrew: I do love buzzsomo a lot.
Andrew: Now if we take a look, for example, at Entrepreneur Magazine and we see Forget Goal Settings. Focus on This Instead. How to Become a Millionaire By Age 30, Clever Marketing Campaign Reversed Coke’s [??] Decline and Soda Sales, The Three Decisions That Will Change Your Financial Life. How do I use all this to create some content that’s really going to work?
Aaron: The difficulty there is that you’d be getting results from all of the different categories as well. There’s going to be different categories and focuses, so try and identify which category you’re going to be writing for and really pull that in a bit. What you’ll have noticed as well in a lot of those headlines that you were reading were the, there were key things like numbers being used in the headlines which are prudent to really improve click through rights. It’s some interesting things that you can do with content and content structure to improve its performance.
Andrew: I see. So you use that and that’s how you figure it out? Talk to me a little bit about what you mentioned before where someone’s scraping [??].
Aaron: One of the good things, and this is more for our clients when you’re writing for their own [??] and guest posting elsewhere, is we, one of the cool strategies is to really just answer people’s questions that are being asked within your industry and to solve problems. A good way of doing that is that there’s tools out there that can scrape in real time questions being asked from forums within specific categories that you sell.
What happens there is whenever you use that Google Doc Sheet in real time it updates those questions. It’s a matter of simply saying, ‘What are the common things and the common questions being asked?’ then writing globe posts that answer that question and solve that problem.
Andrew: Do you have an example of a good one? I see one on GetHub that does it. I see someone else just pulling the RSS feed. What’s…?
Aaron: The RSS feed, all you do is enter each category and it pulls the RSS feed from each category.
Andrew: Oh, so it’s not even an advanced scraper? We’re just talking about basically getting an RSS feed that CORA provides you of all the questions that they have. You’re saying that’s what you’re using to get a sense of what questions people have around the topic that your customers care about and then you write blog posts about that?
Aaron: Exactly. It does a few things. If they were asking those questions on CORA, they’re likely to be asking them on Google. If you’re creating content around that you’re likely to be able to then drive search traffic of people looking for those answers in Google. It also gives you an idea that there’s a hungry audience behind a content that you’re creating. So it’s not just a stab in the dark and trying to guess what people might be interested in.
On top of that, it gives you an avenue to be able to go into CORA, engage with these people, answer some questions, let them know that there’s more content over here where you created this blog post that can help answer that problem.
Andrew: So if you answer it, you can link also back to your post where you’ve answered it more?
Aaron: Yeah. Make sure that when you go in to put that link in there that you’re not just going and link dropping. You want to provide value. You give them some answers and say, ‘For further information, feel free to click through over here.’
Andrew: I see. If I’m looking at creating a customer development site I might do a search for customer development topic on CORA. Here’s some of the questions that come up. What are your favorite methods for doing problem interviews during customer discovery? Why did Steve Jobs never ask customers or do MVP validation? Six steps to writing crystal clear marketing messages that drive people to you, etc.
These are where I would come up with ideas for posts that would then send people to my site.
All right. Let’s go back to more of the consulting business. How did you know what your consulting business would focus on because I introduced you as a guy who does digital marketing? That could include so many different things. How did you know what focus you should take for the business?
Aaron: Yeah, so a lot of our success in affiliate marketing came through SEO. And I didn’t want to put a lot of money into net focusing on paper quickly just learning to money on that. I wanted to be able to be highly profitable as possible. So I’d rather put in work effort and not the money.
So you know the combination of those things and we got really good at SEO just meant that that was the offering that we wanted to use the focus on things for our clients.
Andrew: What do you mean a search engine optimization because it was so easy, that’s what you decided to focus on for your clients?
Aaron: Because we knew how to do it, we knew how to do it effectively. And that was what we were going to achieve results in affiliate marketing.
Andrew: So how did you systemize search engine optimization? It’s a pretty tough thing to get right.
Aaron: It’s a really tough thing to get right. And the thing is that it’s constantly evolving and changing and that’s the hard thing. You need to do a lot of effort and understanding what changes are coming and the goals behind bring back the most relevant results and all of those sorts of things.
So it was tough I mean we learned by seeing what other agencies were doing for their clients. I guess one of the biggest things and this is a something I’d say to anyone looking to get into the [Simon] industry is that we knew how to do what we had to do to achieve the results. But creating the business structure around it, and the process, and the offering, and the explanations behind it. And how to deal with customers and all of those sorts of things where we’ve had to put a lot of our time and energy and effort.
Andrew: Give me an example of a time when you did it badly so I have a sense of where things could go wrong.
Aaron: Where we did client engagement wrong?
Andrew: Either create the mix of offers poorly, or over commit to what you could do, or just go way off base.
Aaron: So initially when we were starting up and we were going small business we were trying to offer these packages. And I’m personally not a fan of packaged SEO’s for anyone. Every website is unique in its own comparative notch and it really should be individually focused.
But we initially started we were trying to do packages and we’re doing things like I would create five articles here. We’ll do ten in social bookmarks and five comments. And when we looked at it I recently found those documents and looked through it a few weeks ago only and I just wanted to slap myself about how amateur…
Andrew: Why is packaging a bad idea?
Aaron: Because if you offer a standard package to a business you’re not catering to the exciting link protocol that have exciting authority that I have in the industry. How advanced or behind the [??] set up is a website. How advanced their competitors are, how hard it’s going to be to rank within that industry and plethora of other things.
So you get a customer to come through and you just say oh here’s a $500 package and you’re going to be fine. It’s not in my mind achieving a positive business ROI. And it’s simply just offering service and hoping for the best.
Andrew: I do see here I think you pretty much have kept your site the same since you’ve started. And when did you start 2013?
Aaron: That new start, yes.
Andrew: And the previous site what was that?
Aaron: It was on the way to the web. It was redirecting to [??] unwind now.
Andrew: On your way to the web.com.
Aaron: Dot.com that [??]. And the purpose of that was we were focusing on small business. And so it was helping them get online and give themselves a business presence.
Andrew: I see and so at first you were just getting people going.
Andrew: Why did you move away from that initial customer base?
Aaron: Yeah, so our focusing has been on meeting to enterprise for long time and the reason being is that when you’re focusing on small business, they generally are doing this as their only channel of marketing. So their rankings aren’t changing every single day and they’re looking they’re manually checking. Then their all coming to you and their saying, there’s a problem. And education them to say well you have to wait three months, six months or however long it might take is a hard thing to do for small business.
You know, I’ve really never felt that we could have a positive business impact with the services we provided to small business. There’s that aspect, there’s the fact that they don’t have a budget for content creation, for content marketing. And really the way that the algorithms are going I find it hard to make positive impact on such a small budget. And that’s the only think you can charge the small business.
Andrew: I see.
Aaron: When we go to the meeting enterprise clients they typically have digital marketing managers or marketing managers on national marketing managers who have a predefined budget across different marketing channels. And you know SCO being one content marketing being another type of click, so on and so forth. And so they understand that it’s part of mix of all of their marketing and it takes time to see results and if there’s an impact. They need to have a work effort. They need to see those results as well, and they’re okay with that.
Andrew: Yeah. Those smaller customers are a lot harder to please unless you have a very clear result through a very clear product, I find.
Andrew: Sounds like you have, too.
Aaron: Yeah. And, I mean, there are ways of doing it if you’re focusing on local business optimization and local SEO, but it’s not something that we’ve been doing for a lot of years now and not something that we could see as a business that we could successfully grow through as well, you know? What we focused on is what gets us great results.
Andrew: I asked you before we started. I said, “You’re earning $35,000 a month now through consulting, like this?” And you shook your head. You actually said, “No,” more aggressively.” What is the number?
Aaron: We’re up around $90,000 and we’ve got about three or four deals on the cards as well that should see us well over a hundred in the next couple of weeks. So, we’re growing very aggressively right now and taking on a few key players that help with all the workload, so that number will change. You should check back in in a couple of months.
Andrew: It has already grown that much in a couple of months. Where were you monthly at the beginning of the year?
Aaron: We were probably close to around 30 to 40 at the time.
Andrew: $30,000 to $40,000 at the beginning of the year and now we’re almost at the end and you’ve more than doubled it.
Aaron: Yeah, almost tripled. And this is only the client side. We’re also doing all of the affiliate stuff. We’re still doing some affiliate stuff here and there to balance things out and provide extra cash flow.
Andrew: Did Neil help you get more customers beyond just being linked to from his site?
Aaron: Neil has helped in terms of the brand awareness and building our relationship. Often, if he gets people that are from Australia contacting him for help, he’ll sort of flick them over to my direction and say, “You’re best off speaking to this guy.” Apparently, they like the accent, so . . .
Andrew: I see.
Aaron: So, just the networking and brand awareness is what we’ve really leveraged.
Andrew: One of your first goals, I think, was to get to $15,000 a month in sales, right?
Aaron: One of our first goals was to get to $30,000.
Andrew: Thirty thousand. And how did that go?
Aaron: That went really well. We . . .
Andrew: How long did that take you?
Aaron: Around the time that we were traveling around as well, and that was combined, mostly actually through affiliate marketing. And when that happened, though, it’s a pretty good thing to achieve, $1,000 a day with the vast majority of that being profit. And . . .
Andrew: Because at the time it was still you and your fiancee, now wife?
Aaron: Yes. Just the two of us.
Andrew: Oh, wow. Okay. And so for the two of you to do $30,000, that means $15,000 is coming in. That’s a long way from you living off of her salary or you guys being happy about $.40 in revenue.
Aaron: Yeah. It was a very exciting time. We took off around Europe and continued to travel and do what we were doing. It was good.
Andrew: You traveled while you worked?
Aaron: Yeah. There were challenges.
Andrew: What was one of the challenges about it?
Aaron: Sitting in a hotel room outside . . . you know, we’re sitting in Rome and I just remember looking out the window and just wanting to be out there and get involved, and just the self-discipline was a bit tough, but the results were worth it. So I guess self-discipline’s an important thing to learn anyway.
Andrew: Yeah. I’ll say. And it really is a lot harder when you’re away, because not only is it beautiful out there and so you want to be a part of it, but there are challenges, too, like the internet goes down or there’s a problem with the way that you’re connecting to power and all those things could become excuses for not working. It sounds like you had one of them.
Aaron: I’ve had all of those. Yeah. The internet was a bit sketchy throughout Thailand and a few places in Asia, and then it was great. There was challenges in wanting to be outside and explore more, knowing that the money was still going to come in, but we were working now for the future weeks or the future months. So, a lot of challenges. Yeah.
Andrew: What about some of the challenges with just being in online marketing in a world that’s basically, because of your SEO focus, in a world that’s controlled by Google? You’ve had issues with that. What’s the biggest one?
Aaron: We see a lot of penalized sites and trying to get people out of penalties can often be tough and a long process and a lot of work effort. And then, thinking that you’re doing the right things and Google goes and pulls the carpet from under your feet and changes something in the algorithm. It can set you back. It can set your customers back. It’s tricky. We are at the mercy of Google and everyone in this industry is, so as long as you’re still providing value, still helping visitors and customers, creating content, then it’s going to be a lot harder for you to ever get into a penalty situation.
Andrew: A few hours before you and I talked, I interviewed Liah, who does conversion optimization. That’s his consulting business and I feel like he’s in a much better world than everyone who is doing SEO because in SEO you’re dependent on Google. When it comes to conversion optimization, you’re dependent on yourself and your customers and that’s it. And you prove your results so much faster, it feels like and more measurably.
Aaron: Absolutely, I think it’s a great business and you’re not at the mercy of Google in a lot of ways. The thing about SEO is that SEO used to be something you did to a website to achieve results and now SEO is more the result of having a great business across and being a good business, creating content, providing value to people, being out there and branding.
Andrew: You create content for your customers?
Andrew: How did you know that’s worth investing and that you should do it instead of telling item to do it.
Aaron: Because it was a very hard sell initially to say when you’re paying for SEO and now we need you to pay for content on top of that. It was a tough thing and that’s one of my challenges. In fact, I did an interview a couple months back about what are the challenges that exist in the market, specifically in Australia, at the moment. My answer was that people have these multi-channel marketing budgets but there’s very few people who have a budget for content and trying to educate people about the need for that is an uphill battle at this stage.
Andrew: What about customers not paying you?
Aaron: That’s a challenge. That’s something that has happened and it can really restrict things. It’s a real kick in the guts, so to speak. It’s happened to us when we were doing really well for a client. They were literally ranking 1, 2, and 3 in google for a number of their target key words and they simply had a change of heart as to what they wanted to do as far as their business. Change their business direction. They held back on paying for several months and there was just little way of ever getting paid the money that we’re owed. It’s something that every business experiences but it chokes the business.
Andrew: What can you do to avoid that?
Aaron: Upfront payment.
Andrew: That’s it. And have you started doing that.
Aaron: Yeah, we’ve definitely changed to that in recent times. I know a lot of other businesses focused in that area but it’s only something we’ve switched to recently after being hurt in that way.
Andrew: I’ve got a couple more questions but first I should say to anyone who is listening to this who wants the follow up to this conversation, especially around marketing, you’ve got to listen to my conversation with Neil Patel about how to get traffic from content. He did such an incredible job and he also had to put up with our whole process of getting everything together but he did it and boy is it good.
First of all, he’s great, and second, I’m going to pat myself on the back and say that Mixergy has gotten really good at getting ideas from guests. You have to go and do a search for Neil Patel’s Traffic From Content. The session is fantastic. If you’re a Mixergy premium member you get to watch the whole thing. If you’re not, you get a really good outline of what’s in there and some key ideas explained to you. Three of the big ones are in there. Really, watch it. Anything from Neil is good. He does really good quality doesn’t he?
Aaron: Absolutely. He continues to do everything we’ve been talking about through this whole interview. He’s doing a lot of guest posting, he’s doing a lot of his own content marketing. He’s in these interviews. He’s in interviews everywhere doing what he can to help people out. He does a good job and anyone in the industry, it would be good to follow in those footsteps.
Andrew: When you’re pitching the client for the first time, how do you convince them that you’re company is better than the bigger ones that they have an opportunity to work with?
Aaron: There’s a few key focuses for us. One is ensuring that we’re not just talking about things like links and technical issues and content and everything. Our approach is to make them understand that our goal is to help them have a positive business impact and if we’re not getting them leads in sales, we’re not doing our job. And so, it’s turning the focus on to that. One of the other things we do, is also focus on insuring that we can show how we are going to get to that positive [??] and showing forecasting of numbers and conversions and those sort of things.
The other thing, is through developing different credibility indicators. We talked earlier about the places that I had published to and the people I’m associated with – it’s using that in a way to position ourselves as the experts in the industry. A bit part of it comes down to stating how you deal with smaller companies that can be a bit more agile than these bigger companies, how we can know work with you closer and be great in terms of customer engagement and customer service. So, those are the areas we focus on a lot.
Andrew: Are you married now, to your fiancee from earlier or did I just assume that you are? And is this Gianne [SP]?
Aaron: Gianne, yes.
Andrew: And you guys didn’t share a last name after the wedding, right?
Andrew: Okay, so I see her on the site so she…
Aaron: [??] It’s one of the things on the list.
Andrew: Valeria Go [SP] is another one, Micah, am I pronouncing his name?
Andrew: Micah, Micah. He’s another person who’s working. How did you find the team of people who you hired?
Aaron: Some of them came through [??]. Marco, we’ve been associated with for a while, and Sanady [SP] has done some really good work, oversees. He’s been living in Malaysia for 8 years, working with some industry giants over there in a different field, but we wanted to bring those, sort of big business expertise back through to our business. As you noted, we are going through considerable growth at the moment, and to leverage his expertise to build structure and process around that was pretty essential, and it’s paying off.
Andrew: All right, one final question, really random, but I’m looking through similar websites to see where your traffic is coming from, where it’s going, and I see something called Samujana.com that you are sending traffic to. What is that?
Aaron: They are a client of ours. They are a big villa estate that is located in Koh Samui, Thailand. You should check out their website.
Andrew: I see it. I see these beautiful villas. I see a three bedroom villa, 11A, let’s see how much it costs.
Aaron: They are very expensive, but very worth it.
Andrew: I see, and so, why are you sending traffic to them from your site?
Aaron: I’m not. I have a link to them saying that they are one of our customers. I didn’t realize that it was stating that we were sending a lot of traffic out.
Andrew: I guess you don’t send that much traffic out, so it’s a big percentage of the traffic that you send out. Boy, this is beautiful, dude. And, it’s only about 600 bucks for this.
Aaron: Yeah. It’s a really impressive place and it sounds like I’m talking it up because they are a customer, but honestly I’ve stayed there a few times and it’s amazing.
Andrew: Wow. Yeah, it’s stunning. That has to be one of the perks of running this business, huh?
Aaron: A perk? Yeah, I do pay to go there but it is nice to be involved in a beautiful business in a beautiful place like that.
Andrew: All right. Well, the company is Louder Online. Is the URL louder.com.au?
Aaron: It’s louderonline.au.
Andrew: Of course, louderonline.au. Cool. Thank you so much for doing this, Aaron.. Thank you for introducing me. Thanks so much for putting up with the questions before we started. I feel like it made for a really good interview.
Aaron: Yeah. I appreciate your time and keep up the good work with what you are doing. I have always been a fan, so good work. Thank you.
Andrew: It’s so cool now to see that more and more people I interview are fans. People who watch the interviews, who have seen it, who have learned from it and now they are here to give back. Thanks. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, everyone!